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NZ consumer confidence climbs in May as unemployment dips

Thursday 18 May 2017 01:28 PM

NZ consumer confidence climbs in May as unemployment dips below 5%

By Paul McBeth

May 18 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand consumer confidence rose in May, helped by a strengthening labour market that has driven unemployment to its lowest level in almost nine years, stoking optimism about people's finances even in the face of stagnant wage growth.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan NZ consumer confidence index rose 2.2 points to 123.9 in May, with the current conditions index gaining 4.6 points to 127.8 and the future conditions index edging up 0.4 of a point to 121.2.

Government data this week showed retail sales rose faster than expected, driven in part by cheap petrol and a relatively strong kiwi dollar keep import costs low. The strength of consumer spending over the past year has surprised the Reserve Bank. More recently, figures showed the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in the March quarter, the lowest level since December 2008, as employers took on more staff without having to raise wages.

Today's survey showed a net 16 percent of the 1,000 respondents said their family finances were better than they were a year earlier, up from 9 percent in April, and the highest level since the global financial crisis in 2008. A net 32 percent expect to be better off in a year's time, down from 33 percent in April. A net 39 percent of respondents see now as a good time to buy, up from 37 percent in April.

ANZ Bank New Zealand chief economist Cameron Bagrie said that was "positive for near-term spending momentum" and that "elevation remains the overriding story".

A net 17 percent of respondents expect New Zealand's economy to be in a good place in 12 months, up from 14 percent a month earlier, and a net 15 percent see better times over the next five years, unchanged from April.

The survey respondents dialled back their inflation expectations, seeing an annual increase in consumer prices of 3.6 percent over the next two years, down from 4 percent in April, whereas house prices are seen rising 4.6 percent, down from 5.2 percent a month earlier.



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